The sisters and I return with Chiwan to the ballroom, and rejoin my family, the king, and a few prominent guests.
“I assume, Master Yagrin,” says the king gravely, “that Keela told you I don’t like surprises.”
Niyta steps between us, before I can respond.
“Commander, please don’t be angry with us.”
“We just wanted to thank you and your people for the wonderful welcome that you’ve given us.”
“I’m not angry,” he answers with a smile.
“I enjoyed your surprise completely.”
He turns to me.
“Your performance was wonderful, Master Yagrin, but you’ve set impossibly high standards for the entertainment!”
The private party continues for another few hours, until the king ends it, and everyone scatters to their sleeping quarters.
Berek and Tzina have rooms near Shazira and me.
Makish has a room far from ours, but she walks with us.
“It’s late Yagrin,” she says, “but you’re not going to sleep, unprotected.”
“What do you mean, Makish?” asks Tzina.
Makish explains about mental attacks, and the wintzal.
We enter the room that the king set aside for Shazira and me.
It’s immense, larger than the house that I inherited from my parents.
“Who would attack us, here?” asks Tzina as we close the door.
“I don’t think anyone will attack you, but the mind is especially vulnerable during sleep.”
“No more walls in my mind,” says Tzina.
“I’ve been trapped there before, and it almost killed me.”
“What if I came with Makish into your mind, Tzina?” I ask.
“Would you feel safer?”
Tzina thinks for a moment, before agreeing.
“I wish we could, Yagrin,” says Makish, “but you’re not a Mind Weaver, and even two Mind Weavers can’t enter a mind together.”
Two, Who See As One
“There is a way,” I tell Makish, as I transform myself into her twin, “but, I need to touch your mind, and hear your thoughts.”
“Go ahead,” she answers.
I make a connection between us, and I see what Makish sees, feel what she feels.
She enters Tzina’s mind, and begins to move.
“I feel your presence, Yagrin,” she says, “but can you see what I see?”
“Yes,” I answer.
“I understand how you entered her mind, and how you move along the paths.”
The mind web is a unique type of energy web, with borders, paths, odd energy structures, and storms.
I focus my attention on the path that we’re following, and I see and feel a confusing jumble of memories.
“Keep a light touch, Yagrin,” she says, feeling my discomfort, “and push away her memories.”
“Or else you’ll be overwhelmed.”
“Even worse, you could get lost in her memories.”
“When we leave her mind, we’ll be hit with a flood of memories.”
“It’s unpleasant, but we can’t avoid it.”
Makish begins to build the wall, leaving a trail of mental energy along every path in Tzina’s mental web.
“Where do you get the energy,” I ask her, for the energy trail?”
“Watch closely as I do it slowly,” she answers.
“I take it from my own mental web.”
I see and feel her gently drawing energy from her own mental web.
“Is the energy in your web infinite?” I ask.
“Doesn’t it harm you to remove the energy?”
“Keep watching the place that I pull the energy from,” she answers.
As the energy leaves the mental web, energy from the great web streams into Makish’s mental web, and is absorbed.
“The energy isn’t replaced automatically, Yagrin.”
“I imagine a whirlpool, a vacuum at the weak spot in the mental web, and feel it pulling at the surrounding energy web.”
“Do you feel it, Yagrin?”
“Would you like to help me lay down the energy threads?” she asks.
I answer her by gently pulling energy away from my mental web, while imagining an energy whirlpool that draws in energy from the great web.
To make an even, strong thread, I shape the energy as I lay it down, and release the energy at a constant rate.
Makish looks at the energy path that I’ve made.
“It’s exactly like mine!” she says.
“The connection between us lets me see and absorb your exact technique.”
“I’ll have to see,” I caution, “whether I can still do it when I’m in my own form, without this connection.”
Makish encourages me to move faster across Tzina’s mental web, and I speed up.
It gets easier, and easier to move quickly across Tzina’s mental web.
The energy pours out of my own mental web as threads across Tzina’s mind.
Finally, Makish and I move together at incredible speed through Tzina’s web, and complete the laying down of threads.
“The next step,” says Makish, “is to bind the threads into a wall.”
“For this, we have to move inside of the web.”
“The web looks like a thick matrix of energy currents in three dimensions,” I say.
“How do we get inside of that?”
“Imagine,” says Makish, that you’re infinitely small, in the center of the mental web.”
“You’re not part of any energy current or thread, but they all seem to surround you.”
“Draw more energy from your own mental web, and cover the outside of Tzina’s mental web, like you’re spreading frosting on a cake.”
A great sphere of energy slowly takes shape outside of the mental web.
It’s rough, but it’s complete, and we’re both still inside of it.
“That sphere is the wall, Makish?”
“It’s the unfinished wall,” she answers.
“Like food that hasn’t been cooked yet.”
“Here’s how we finish it, Yagrin.”
“Feel the energy threads that you’ve laid down along the mental web.”
“Make sure you can feel the ones that I laid down before you took over.”
“I can feel them all, as a pulsing sphere.”
“Now imagine them all glowing brightly, but without any heat.”
“If you imagine heat, you’ll damage the mental web.”
“Are you sure that I should try this?” I ask.
“Do it slowly, at first,” she answers, “and I’ll feel what you’re doing.”
“You’ve already done the hardest part.”
“This part should be easy.”
I start slowly, and imagine the sphere glowing brightly, like fiber-optic strands filled with light.
The fibers grow brighter and brighter, and the mind wall glows.
It changes from a look of dull mud to glazed pottery.
Then it gets hard and clear, like diamond.
“Stop, Yagrin,” she says.
“It needs to be clear,” she tells me, “to maintain a healthy connection with her brain, and her energy bodies.”
“There’s nothing stronger than diamond.”
“Open her wall,” says Makish, “in the same way that you open your own.”
To control the wall you have to feel that the wall is part of you.
When Makish taught me, she pushed the sensation into my mind.
This time, it’s easy for me to find the feeling because I created the wall.
I feel the sphere resting on soft ground.
Then I push the sphere down, until it sinks beneath the ground, and disappears.
The sphere is gone, and the wall is open.
“Let’s go Yagrin,” says Makish.
We leave Tzina’s mind, and I take back my own shape.
When my attention returns to my own body, there is a sudden flood of memories and sensations.
I groan aloud, dizzy, and nauseous.
I manage to stagger to a private place where I can throw up.
I sit down and feel better after a few minutes.
As I return to my family, I find that I can easily recall Tzina’s most emotional memories.
“Are you alright, Yagrin?” asks Makish.
“I feel better now,” I answer, “after throwing up.”
“It’s hard to assimilate the flood of memories,” she says.
“After you’ve built five or ten walls, you’ll get used to it, and you’ll be able to do it without throwing up.”
“Until then, you’ll just have to suffer through it.”
“You’re done?” asks Tzina, opening her eyes.
“Yes,” answers Makish.
“That was horrible,” says Tzina.
“I felt you moving around in my mind.”
“I wanted to push you out, but I couldn’t.”
I give her a long hug, which she relaxes into.
“That’s better,” she says, with a long exhale.
“The wall is built,” says Makish.
“Your father will teach you to open and close it.”
I hold Tzina’s hands, and I try to feel the wall.
It takes a moment, but I find the sensation, and my mind is full of a bright image of the sphere.
I hold her hands and prepare to push the sensation into her mind, as Makish did for me.
“Try to feel the open wall, Tzina,” I tell her
“It should feel like a hard sphere, pushed beneath a spongy surface, waiting to burst out, like a spring.”
It takes Tzina thirty seconds to find the sensation, and feel it clearly.
“Slowly let the sphere pop up through the spongy material until it rests on top of the ground.”
“When you can do that, push the sphere completely under the ground, and hold it there.”
“Wait three seconds, then release the sphere again.”
“Repeat the movements, at least ten times.”
“When you’re finished, leave the sphere resting above the ground.”
“That’s the closed position.”
“It’s done, ina,” she says, after a few minutes.”
“Let’s check it together, Yagrin,” says Makish.
“Follow me, and we’ll see what you can do in your own shape.”
We lower our shields, so we can speak, mind to mind.
I focus on Tzina, trying to see her mental web.
I see her web, but it’s covered by a hard, clear sphere.
“I see the web through the shield.”
“We’ll try to penetrate it,” says Makish.
“Tzina will be aware that someone is trying to enter her mind.”
“It’s a subtle feeling, not unpleasant, or distracting, but she’ll know.”
Makish and I try to break through the wall, but nothing happens.
I touch the sphere with my listener, to see its balance, and find a way to shatter it, but the wintzal blocks my healing sense.
I mention it to Makish.
“I’ve heard that before.”
We raise our own shields and turn our attention back to the room.
“You were trying to enter my mind, ina,” says Tzina.
“I know it!”
“It felt like a faint itch.”
“You’re right, Tzina,” says Makish, “we were, but the wall kept us out.”
Play and Sorrow
“Now, Yagrin,” says Makish, “rebuild your own wall.”
It’s so easy.
“How long did it take me, Makish?”
“Too fast for me to see it going up.”
“I watched your mental web, Yagrin, in case you made a mistake and needed help.”
“One moment there was no wall, and in the next, the sphere was built, solid and clear.”
“Am I ready to build the wall for others?”
“First, I want you to practice building your own wall, fifty times.”
The only way I know to dissolve the wintzal is to transform myself.
Then I rebuild the sphere, and repeat, at Gen speed.
“Done,” I tell Makish.
“I saw your shape flicker, Yagrin, but only a few seconds have passed.”
“How many times did you rebuild your wall?
“I did it an accelerated speed, Makish, much faster than any Jiku could do, or follow.”
“Then it’s time,” she says, “to build the wintzal for Shazira or Berek, without my help.”
“No,” says Berek, “when you build the wall, you’ll see my thoughts.”
“Some of them,” I agree.
“I’m sorry,” he says, “but I don’t want anyone seeing my thoughts.”
“Practice on me, Yagrin,” says Shazira.
When I immerse myself in someone’s mind, as Makish showed me, it’s different than just listening to their thoughts.
I feel and see a strange world surrounding me.
At first, this place has a rough surface, like coarse sand.
How different from the feel of the the soft, smooth, Gen mind touch.
I focus on memories of it, and let them fill the inner landscape.
The coarse sand around me is transformed into a fine, smooth sand.
I build Shazira’s wall as fast as possible.
I don’t want to steal her thoughts, and I hope that if I’m quick enough, I won’t see many of her memories.
The wall is complete, but open, and I pull myself out of her mind.
The thoughts come flooding in.
I can’t even make it to a private area this time before I throw up.
I flow the mess into air, to clean it up.
I sit for a minute to get back my balance.
Shazira doesn’t wait for me.
She remembers my instructions to Tzina about feeling the sphere, and finds it without my help.
Then she practices opening and closing it.
“It’s easy, Yagrin,” she says, “as she opens and closes it.”
“I like handling the wintzal,” she says.
“It’s like being a little girl again, and bouncing a ball.”
“Shazira has the talent, Yagrin.”
“With some training, she’ll be a Mind Weaver.”
“Not tonight,” says Shazira.
“I need sleep.”
“Soon,” says Makish.
“There aren’t enough of us to do what must be done.”
“Everyone in the guilds must be protected before the war comes.”
Makish turns to Berek.
“I won’t let you go to sleep without the wintzal.”
“As Yagrin’s son, you’re too much of a target.”
“Choose one of us to build it.”
“I have terrible thoughts,” he says, lowering his head.
“I don’t want anyone to see them.”
“Berek,” I say gently, “we’ve all thought and done things that we’re not proud of.”
“You need this protection.”
He looks pale, and deathly afraid.
Finally, he straightens himself, and exhales a long breath.
He looks slowly at all of us, as though he’s saying goodbye.
“Go ahead, father,” he finally says.
“Just do it.”
I build the wall as quickly as I can, pushing his memories away.
When I finish and leave his mind, the memories come flooding in.
I move away again to be sick.
When I return, I see Berek standing where I left him, not speaking with anyone.
He looks down when he sees me, embarrassed.
He’s waiting for me to react to the memories.
I try to hide from his memories, but they carry strong emotions, and they pull me in.
I see him as a young child, meeting other children with their parents, and expressing a simple inner wish.
“Let your parents die, and mine return!”
He tries to banish these thoughts, but they always return.
I see him meet Tzina, and she introduces us.
“Let him die,” thinks Berek, “and let my father return.”
He’s crying now, and I hug him.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers to me.
“I’m really sorry.”
“I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
“Don’t tell Tzina.”
“She would hate me if you told her.”
“It’s all right, Berek,” I whisper back.
“Tzina could never hate you, but don’t worry.”
“I won’t tell her.”
“And in a strange way, your wish came true.”
“What do you mean?” he asks anxiously.
“I died in the tower, not long after you met me, and a year later I came back as your father.”
“Yes,” he agrees, “you did.”
“Let me teach you how to close the wall,” I suggest, pulling away from him, “and then we all have to get some sleep.”
“It’s already closed,” says Berek, his eyes still full of tears.
“The sphere is a beautiful dark blue, ina.”
He stumbles over the word ina, that heartfelt word that means so much more than father, but he’s glad that he said it.
I take one of his hands, and hold it tightly.
“That’s how I see my sphere,” I tell him.
Makish has a puzzled expression on her face.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“Nothing’s wrong, Yagrin,” she says.
“Berek closed the wintzal on his own.”
“He has the talent to be a Mind Weaver.”
“There’s something else, Makish.”
She pauses before answering.
“Mind spheres don’t have color, Yagrin.”
“When I first made yours, it was opaque and colorless, like any other, but now it’s dark blue.
“The last king of Tshuan,” she says, “had a dark blue wall.”
“No one else, besides you three, ever had a wintzal with color.”
Makish stops for a moment, fighting with herself to speak.
“I knew the king well,” she admits at last.
“He was a Mind Weaver like us.”
“We were great friends once, though our friendship ended long before the war.”
“Still,” she says sadly, “I believe the king was a great man who made a terrible mistake.”
“I miss him more than I can say.”
I have a strange feeling.
“Are there cubes with images of him?” I ask her.
“No images remain,” she says at last.
“He destroyed every cube he could find that held a memory of him.”
“For years after his death, the Jiku tried to wipe his memory from the earth.”
“Even his descendants destroyed all images of him.”
“I’ve spoken with the sisters who saw the king or his image.”
“We have pledged to keep this secret from the rest of the world.”
“If it became known, your family would be in danger.”
“Will you tell us?” asks Shazira.
“You and your family must know the truth.”
“Someday, sleepers or others may reveal it.”
She takes my hands, and holds them to her cheek.
“Your personality is completely different from Botzar, the last king, but you look like him.”
“For a moment when I first met you, I thought he had returned.”
“He is long dead,” she adds, slowly and sadly.
“Keela told me that I’m descended from him, but I’m surprised that there’s any resemblance after so many generations.”
“You don’t understand, Yagrin.”
“You look exactly like him.”
“How can you be his twin?”